Meet the Women Bringing Brazilian Grime and Drill to New Heights

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From N.I.N.A. to Thai Flow, we highlight some of the women using Brazilian grime and drill for survival, affirmation, and revolt.

N.I.N.A. in her video for Stephen King
N.I.N.A. in her video for “Stephen King.” Graphic by Drew Litowitz.

Pitchfork contributing editor Isabelia Herrera’s column covers the most captivating songs, trends, and scenes coming out of Latin America and its diaspora.


On her song “A Bruta, A Braba, A Forte,” Brazilian artist N.I.N.A. presents a venomous proposition to her competitors. Quivering cymbals punctuate the understated production, as if announcing the gradual arrival of a vicious rattlesnake. Teeth clenched, the Rio de Janeiro rapper dismisses adversaries who dare question her eminence, declaring in Portuguese, “If snakes kill with an embrace/I present you with the embrace of death.”

These sorts of invitations for battle are the lifeblood of Brazilian grime and drill. Over the last year or so, the country’s rappers and MCs have taken up grime and drill as idioms, reimagining and ushering them into electrifying new directions. In Brazil, the boundaries between the two genres are becoming more fluid, and the movements have begun blossoming in concert with each other; many artists cite Pop Smoke, Digga D, Wiley, and Dizzee Rascal as equal sources of inspiration. But more than mere imitation, Brazilian artists have redrawn grime and drill’s borders, threading in loops and kicks from different branches of baile funk and samba right alongside the speaker-knocking bass of 8-bar and the icy synths of eskibeat, all while they rap about life in the favelas.

Grime and drill’s arrival in the country illuminates the way the internet allows hyperlocal movements to travel across the globe, but it is especially meaningful that these sounds have flourished in Brazil. Not only do they share an obvious aural and cultural history as Afro-diasporic sounds, they have been instruments for critique and belonging. The genres have also been targets of racist, classist criminalization and censorship by governments in both the UK and Brazil. Like baile funk before it, this is a movement of survival, affirmation, and revolt.

So far, the most visible faces of Brazilian grime are largely male: Fleezus and Febem of São Paulo; SD9 and LEALL of Rio; Vandal of Salvador, to name just a handful. But alongside them, and often in collaboration, a new wave is ascending the ranks of the scene, refusing to let it coalesce into an old boys’ club.

Women have guided the course of the movement at every level: There is the aforementioned N.I.N.A., a DJ-turned-rapper and forthright social critic who is unafraid to illustrate the realities of the racist, sexist industry she is forced to navigate. Behind the boards, São Paulo-based DJ Peroli has landed high-profile sets on online radio stations like Rinse FM and NTS. And behind the scenes, women like Yvie Oliveira, executive producer of the YouTube series Brasil Grime Show, are helping to shape the next generation of rappers and MCs; inspired by British platforms like Reprezent Radio, BGS has produced singles, mentored emerging talent, and hosted live performances since its launch in 2018.

As Brazilian grime and drill continue to garner international attention, women deserve to be at the center of its rise, especially in a Brazilian pop landscape that favors white and lighter-skinned artists. While there are plenty of women in this movement, here are some of our favorites coming out of the scene.


N.I.N.A.

N.I.N.A.’s productions might be understated, but don’t confuse them for anything other than raw invocations of personal power. She was a baile funk DJ before she wrote her own verses, and gravitated towards grime in 2017 after she played the same club in Rio as the artist SD9. As a kid growing up in the Rio favela of Cidade Alta, she heard funk playing on every corner; she said it was inevitable that she fell in love with funk and rap rebels like Racionais MC’s and MC Carol as a preteen. You can feel the legacy of these influences in her breathy, relaxed flows and unflinching, incisive verses.

 

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